Bruges for under £100 a night! Visit this medieval masterpiece of a town without breaking the bank

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Swans, cobblestones and lace shops: Bruges doesn’t disappoint if your hopes for a weekend away includes old-fashioned charm. 

But this medieval masterpiece of a town, reached from London in little more than three hours on Eurostar, also has avant-garde musical installations, irresistible chocolate shops and a thriving beer scene all set on winding, ancient lanes. 

More than enough for a diverting and relaxing weekend break, which doesn’t have to be expensive either with this list of purse-friendly places to stay, eat and visit…

Where to stay

Classic charm: The main Market Square in Bruge, framed by colourful buildings

Classic charm: The main Market Square in Bruge, framed by colourful buildings

Hotel Fevery: This Twenties building awash with antique chairs, clocks and radiograms may be a little out of the centre, but, this being Bruges, it’s still only a ten-minute walk away. Owner Paul Asselman has been here for 23 years and is a dab hand at recommending less obvious attractions, such as the wonderful baroque church of Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-ter-Potterie. From here, you can amble along the picturesque canal. B&B doubles from £59 (hotelfevery.be) 

Hotel Academie: With its imposing stone facade on a cobbled side street and the brick-vaulted breakfast room (formerly the malt cellar for an on-site bakery), you’d expect history to seep from every crevice of this inviting hotel. In fact, rooms are modern creations in grey and pink. The breakfast buffet shames pricier hotels; there’s even free prosecco. B&B doubles from £96.50 (hotelacademie.be)

Hotel Marcel: A deftly thrown praline away from the main square, Hotel Marcel’s stripped-down rooms are unremarkable, yet those on the top floor offer fine views of the Belfort tower and the crowds queuing to climb its 366 steps. B&B doubles from £98 (hotelmarcel.be)

La Maison Zenasni: Algerian owner Djamil Zenasni and his family live in one half of this huge home, which dates back to 1787, while the other half consists of three suites. All are magnificent spaces replete with wingback chairs, mirrored wardrobes and access to a communal garden. B&B doubles from £94; prices can fluctuate (lamaison-zenasni.be)

Where to eat

Chez Vincent: If you were serious about your diet, you would never have come to Belgium. This temple to the fried potato uses only native bintje spuds. There are great views of Saint-Salvator Cathedral upstairs, where you can devour a plate of bitterballen (beef croquettes) with a medium cornet of fries (£4.90). chezvincent.eu

Cafe Vlissinghe: Rubens would pay off his bar tab here by offloading paintings to the owners of this Gothic-looking time-warp, which dates back to 1515. Wooden floorboards and heavy furniture are to be expected, but the food to soak up the sensational beers is impressive; try the meatballs in beer sauce with mashed potatoes and salad for £14.50. cafevlissinghe.be

Gran Kaffee De Passage: Slink through the thick curtains and you’re in a world of blood-red walls, candles galore and an utterly indulgent menu of unapologetically carnivorous dishes. Try the beef stew with salad and fries for £12. passagebruges.com

Brasserie Forestiere: A welcome contrast to Bruges’s usual interiors of heavy drapes and heavier mains, Forestiere feels light as a feather with its white walls, pine tables and grateful locals tucking into outstanding four-course lunch menus, which include a goat’s cheese salad, vegetarian quiche and mushroom soup for £11.20. brasserieforestiere.be 

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What to see and do

There are plenty of picturesque canals to explore around the city

There are plenty of picturesque canals to explore around the city

Visit the greatest pub in Belgium: It doesn’t open until 4pm, there’s no music or garden, and the owners don’t like tour groups. And that’s exactly the way discerning locals want ‘t Brugs Beertje (Bruges’s Little Bear) to stay. Featuring brown-painted walls festooned with vintage beer signs and an interior that looks like it hasn’t been touched since Poirot’s day, this is ground zero for beer lovers. It has more than 300 lambic, sour, Trappist and donker (dark) beers available from a novella-length menu. brugsbeertje.be

Sweet surrender: There’s no shortage of chocolate shops ready to create elaborately wrapped boxes of pralines and truffles in the time-honoured Belgian way. BbyB takes a radically minimalist approach — imagine Philippe Starck made chocolate and you’ll have an idea of this all-white store where the boxes are numbered. Try No 25, with dark chocolate, strawberry, pepper and lemon, for £4.25. bbyb.be

Go behind the scenes: There’s a Night At The Museum feel to taking a self-guided tour of the striking Concertgebouw building. This highly surreal experience (£6.90) takes you backstage, up narrow staircases and, eventually, on to the roof. Along the way, you’ll find experimental art, immense murals and a giant ‘toadstool’ where, upon pressing the panels on top, you can create your own jazz masterpiece. concertgebouw.be

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Wonderful windmills: Quietly grinding flour since 1770, Sint-Janshuis Mill is one of only four remaining windmills in Bruges. You can visit this one for £3.45, then wander along the old city ramparts to admire the others. It’s only a 20-minute walk, but the coach tours that clog the centre feel lightyears away here. Address: Kruisvest 3

Curious canvas: There’s little that’s humorous about most Flemish art, but, at the Groeninge Museum, alongside works by big-hitters such as Jan van Eyck and Gerard David, lies some levity in the form of Rene Magritte’s surreal masterpiece The Assault, which contains nudity, tower blocks and oblongs of clouds. Plus there’s Marcel Broodthaers’s The Farm Animals, in which cows are given car manufacturer descriptions. Address: Dijver 12 



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